Sophie Kemkhadze is the Deputy Country Director for UNDP in Nepal. She joined the UN a decade ago and has been involved in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) promotion. Nepal has also committed to achieve SDGs. Karobar National Economic Daily's reporter Bhim Gautam talked with her on Nepal's implementation of SDGs, its target, private sector's role, and above all the UN's role. The excerpts;
Where does Nepal stand in terms of implementing the SDGs?
Implementing the SDGs is a global challenge,but with concerted efforts and commitment from all stakeholders the Goals could be materialized within the given time frame. It is remarkable that, Nepal was one of the first countries to present its preliminary national report on the SDGs at the UN Headquarters. Nepal is also actively monitoring its progress towards the SDGS, an example is Nepal’s participation in the recently held High Level Political Forum (HLPF) with a voluntary national report (2017) which shows significant progress in poverty reduction and human development.
This shows that Nepalis committed to attain the SDGs. Government of Nepal has also formed two high level committees to coordinate and implement the SDGs – Prime Minister chairs the SDGs Steering Committee and National Planning Commission VC chairs the SDGs implementation, coordination and monitoring committee.
Besides, there has been a progress in bringing the private sectors, youth groups and the civil society on board the SDG localization process. While the civil society groups have formed an informal Alliance for SDGs and are advocating for the Global Goals, the private sector are also coming forward with what we call “business coalition for SDGs”, an informal alliance facilitated by businesses committed to the SDGs. Supported by UNDP, the coalition is a voluntary group of likeminded enterprises, which understand the need to align their business operations with the SDGs and work with other actors in Nepal to achieve sustainable development.
What are Nepal’s challenges in achieving the SDGs?
What has been done so far is only the beginning and most of the challenges are ahead of us. The SDGs are interlinked, indivisible, and ambitious and thus, pose major implementation challenges for a country like Nepal. Vision and effective financing strategies for SDGs are crucial for Nepal to achieve the 2030 goals. As envisioned in Nepal’s Constitution – complementary mobilization of resources from public, private and cooperative sectors for financing the socio-economic development efforts is critical.
Mainstreaming the SDGs at provincial and local level through planning and budgeting processes is a great opportunity and a challenge the same time. Inadequate sub-national data, policy realignment and financing will be major challenges. Coordinated resource mobilization across sectors and significant augmentation of triangular partnership between the government, private sector and development partners will be essential to spur reforms that attract substantial private capital and entrepreneurship.
Mobilization of consistent political and economic actors and the resources at national level and forging strong partnership at regional and international levels are crucial for achieving SDGs. A strong mechanism for review and follow-up on progress made is key. A comprehensive way to review progress on all the SDGs and targets with a view to facilitating feedback and corrective measures, is needed.
How could Nepal generate resources needed to help meet the SDGs? Has there been any cost estimation?
In terms of generating resources, the SDGs do look very ambitious not only for Nepal, but for the entire world. A rough estimate has it that the global cost would be around $2.5 trillion per year. Since both the domestic finance and international aid would fall short, Nepal, like any other country, needs to look for non-traditional resource mobilization and partnerships. In the same vein, Government should create environment conducive for foreign direct investment, through better policies, tax regimes and incentives.
The increasing growth of South-south cooperation and investment in the region offers an opportunity to narrow financing gaps in areas such as in infrastructure. Nepal should plan ahead for the point in the future when international public finance (including climate finance) is likely to be scaled back.
Nepal has a significant informal economy, and if the government could formalize the informal economy, bring the businesses into social security net/regime, this could have a larger impact not just in generating revenue but also in meeting SDG targets of health, education, jobs, equality and may others. Nepal can mobilise private investments by improving the business environment, using incentive schemes, guarantees, PPPs or other instruments that can maximise the impact of private investment, can create decent jobs, and drive growth, skills development and innovation.
What role do you see for the private sector?
UNDP believes that the private sector has a very important role to play in a country’s effort to ensure an equitable, sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030 recognize the private sector as one of the key partners in our effort to achieve a better future that brings peace and prosperity and sustainability to the planet. The SDGs were introduced with participation of wider stakeholders and came after over two years long engagement and consultation around the globe. SDGs offer a new mantra for businesses. It is the call of the time.
When we speak of the role of private sector in advancing the SDGs, we are not talking only about the traditional model of Corporate Social Responsibility. The private sector is already contributing to the SDGs, as they are the engines of growth. However, as practice suggests doing business responsibly and ethically is also profitable. New environmental challenges create new opportunities for businesses. They can contribute to cut carbon emissions, ensure decent employment, curb corruption, and promote human rights and environment conservation. The private sector can bring technology and innovation to foster sustainable development. An effective public-private partnership for the SDGs offers a unique possibility of combining public accountability with finance, innovation and efficiency.
The private sector has long been complaining of lack of business environment. How could Nepal expect more from the ailing private sector?
It is true that without a good policy environment the business sector cannot flourish and without the growth of the business sector their contribution to the SDGs will be limited. This is something that can be improved through joint efforts of the government and the business sector. Better business environment is needed not just for the growth of domestic private sector but also for attracting FDI. The Government of Nepal will have to work towards making it an attractive destination for both domestic and international private investors. And I believe, as the secretary form the Ministry of Industry Yam Kumari Khatiwada said during the Business Summit held in November 21, the government has kept its doors always open to hear complains, if any form the private sector, and discuss ways to ensure better business environment. This is a very good gesture.
How is UNDP helping Nepal in the areas of SDGs?
UNDP, as the UN’s development agency, has special mandate and role to facilitate SDG implementation. Here in Nepal, we have been working with the government on nationalizing and localizing the SDGs. UNDP provided technical support to prepare a SDG baseline report and SDG implementation strategy that also includes financing strategy. Nepal has mainstreamed the 2030 Agenda into its national plans and policies, national budget, and other sectoral plans with country-specific SDG-related targets to be achieved by 2030. UNDP supported the National Planning Commission to align its national monitoring and evaluation framework with the SDG and its targets.
SDG working group was also established to work alongside the Government and other stakeholders as countries all move ahead in developing and implementing development plans.
A similar forum of Parliamentarians on the SDGs was formed within Nepal’s parliament to facilitate focused advocacy on the SDGs.
On the advocacy front, UNDP extended its partnership with the CSO Forum for the SDGs and Youth Alliance for the SDGs. Since the adoption of the SDGs, UNDP has conducted over 40 public lectures focusing on the Goals and a wide range of topics, including the role of youth in advancing the SDGs, climate change and adaptation, gender equality, youth and volunteerism, innovation, technology and development.
In addition, the UN Country Team also kicked off the SDG roadshow, spreading public awareness of the SDGs across the country. The aim of the roadshow is to reach out to as many people as possible with SDG messages, and to inspire every citizen to play their part to achieve the SDGs. These actions taken by UNDP have helped the Government of Nepal build its capacity to localize, execute and monitor the SDGs that directly decide the course of the future of Nepali people and their country.
The initiatives such as the SDGs road show, lecture series and other awareness programmes, have not just helped enhance understanding and awareness about the SDGs among government officials, CSOs and the public, but also have created proactive communities and citizens that will hold the government accountable to implement the SDGs.